ACLU pushes for release of body cam vids, independent investigation in RPD fatal shooting

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — In light of Tuesday’s officer-involved shooting in downtown Richmond, the ACLU of Virginia is again calling for independent investigators to handle similar type shootings across the state and would like to see footage from body cameras released as soon as possible.

Currently, the Richmond Police Department’s Force Investigation Team (FIT) is reviewing video from the body cameras of the officers involved in Tuesday’s deadly encounter, which left 23-year-old Alexander Schoessel dead.

Nicholas Pechstein and Joshua Sanborn, both patrol officers who have been on the force for 8 months, fired their weapons.

The department says it will prepare a report and give it to the chief, who will then review it before submitting it to the commonwealth’s attorney. The chief says the video will be released after it has been reviewed by prosecutors.

The ACLU is calling on the department to release those videos as soon as possible. The organization says they’d also like to see officer involved shootings handled by an independent statewide unit. They say in order to be fully transparent and objective, departments shouldn’t be handling investigations into their own officers.

“It’s unrealistic to think that people who are friends of officers and prosecutors who work with officers every day can truly do an objective assessment of what happened, and I think that’s just human nature and I think it’s really important that we get to a point that there should be a unit put together that investigates all of these,” Claire Guthrie-Gastanaga with the ACLU of Virginia said.

The ACLU says Schoessel is the 17th person to be killed by police in Virginia this year. Gastanaga says that’s a 40 percent increase from the prior year. She says they will push lawmakers to create and fund an independent unit in the upcoming General Assembly session.

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